"The Brain" takes the viewer on a 90-minute journey, exploring the organ that makes human beings so unique. Whereas a standard documentary program might spend this time filled with academics spouting technical jargon about the biology of the brain without relevant context, "The Brain" does the exact opposite.
Beginning with a brief intro to the basic structures and functions of the brain, the program quickly delves into mini concepts that directly affect viewers and through these concepts, show how the brain plays a vital role. These segments feature experts in the field explaining the topic and brains function, while animations provide an additional look at what is going on in the brain at a specific time. Such concepts covered include sex, fear, memory, and the idea of morality. The latter was the concept I found most fascinating.
The program visits a prison where an inmate, branded by doctors as a psychopath is subjected to brain scans in order to see how the mind of a criminal works, and if there is truly a biological basis for "evil." I was stunned at how simple the concept of the test was; they had the subject rate various pictures on a scale for how morally offensive they found the images, and then compared his ratings to the activity of his brain at the time. What they were looking for was quite obvious, as many of the pictures were of disturbing nature, should rate as offensive for the average person, and in a "good" brain trigger an appropriate response of activity. Unfortunately, the segment was all too brief and I was soon whisked on to the next topic.
This briefness, is the sole detriment to the program. The scope of what it covers in the short runtime is truly amazing, but ends up feeling like a sampler for what could be a very fascinating, miniseries, where extended periods of time are spent with the same concepts. This briefness also hinders the replay value of the program as there isn't a great deal to come back to and review.
"The Brain" is presented in a Non-Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen transfer. Colors are sharp throughout the program and no great technical defects are present. If The History Channel would start releasing their programs with anamorphic transfers, I can only imagine how much better the programs would look and highlight the time and effort that goes into making them visually appealing. Still, its intended purpose of giving a relevant look at the human brain is indeed successful and the program has appeal to a wide scope of ages and backgrounds.
"The Brain" features a very serviceable English Stereo track. Sound quality is clear and consistent throughout. It's not a particularly impressive track compared to science programs such as NOVA, but it doesn't have to be, as it's largely an interview/narration driven piece.
The History Channel special program, "The Brain" takes on the hefty task of conveying the functions of the human brain by providing relevant examples to a general audience, all in the span of 90 minutes. The result is a brief, but enjoyable program that is likely to have interested parties do their own research into specific topics that raised their interest. I'd like to see The History Channel return to the subject as a miniseries, because, as interesting as the program is, it's all too brief and not deep enough to warrant multiple viewings. Rent It.